Why study science? An abundance of career opportunities!

Science pays well but is also constantly changing and new opportunities regularly arise

Some students who are applying for science courses will already have a good sense of the type of course that interests them. Photograph: iStock

Some students who are applying for science courses will already have a good sense of the type of course that interests them. Photograph: iStock


Science is one of the most popular choices for CAO applicants, and one that offers an abundance of career opportunities.

Every university, technological university and institute of technology runs science courses, and there’s also science-based apprenticeships where students can train to be a laboratory analyst.

Why study science:

Science is a subject, yes, but it’s also a way of thinking: science graduates have been trained to think critically, research properly and be guided by the evidence. These are critical workplace skills and employers value the creativity and problem-solving skills of science graduates.

We often tend to think of science as the three subjects studied at Leaving Cert level – physics, chemistry and biology – but astronomy, genetics, geology, maths, nanotechnology, pharmacology and zoology are also among the third-level science options.

Job opportunities:

Science never stays still, and jobs that were unimaginable 20 years ago are now thriving, with so many opportunities available to work in areas as diverse as biotechnology, data analysis, drones, nanotechnology, smart devices and so much more.

Some students will go on to work in labs, academia or industry. Others will choose further study before going on to specialise in a particular area.

Science graduates might find themselves working on clinical trials, research and development, regulation. In industry, for instance, a physics graduate might work in quantum computing or artificial intelligence, while a biology graduate might be snapped up by one of the many medical device firms in Ireland.

But you’ll find science graduates almost anywhere, with many going on to work in finance, telecoms, technology, retail, the civil service, product development, or creative industries.

Earnings and progression:

The most recent data from the Higher Education Authority indicates that, nine months after graduation, natural science, statistics and maths graduates have one of the highest average salaries, earning between €34,295 and €36,925.

The same survey showed that 69 per cent of science grads were in employment and 24 per cent engaged in further study.

Where to do it:

Some students who are applying for science courses will already have a good sense of the type of course that interests them. UCC and UL are among those that have specialised entry routes, with students at UL choosing from physics, biological and chemical sciences or mathematics from the outset.

Trinity College has four distinct entry routes into science: biological and biomedical sciences, chemical science, geography and geosciences and physical sciences.

Other third levels offer general entry science courses, which means that students can get a taste of various subjects in first year before choosing what to specialise in – or “major” – down the line.

UCD runs a common-entry science course with students having the option to explore different subjects before choosing a specialist degree. In UCD, in first year, students can focus on one area, for example physics or biology, or take a range of subjects. In second year most students choose a minimum of two subjects and major in one of these for the final two years, graduating with a degree in biological, biomedical and biomolecular sciences, or in chemistry and chemical sciences or in the mathematical, physical or geological sciences.

TU Dublin, DCU, MTU (formerly Cork IT and Tralee IT), Maynooth University, NUI Galway, WIT, IT Sligo, IT Carlow and Letterkenny IT offer common-entry science courses, with some also offering direct entry into a specialist area. Maynooth University has an innovative suite of courses that allow students to study arts and science together.

A selection of CAO points 2020 
UCC: Biological and chemical sciences: 510 
DCU: Chemical and pharmaceutical sciences: 521 
MTU: Physical sciences (common entry): 282 
TU Dublin: General entry science: 476 
Trinity College: Geography and geoscience: 473 
UCD: Science: 533 
IT Sligo: Bachelor of Science in Science: 338 
Dundalk IT: Environmental science: 330 
NUI Galway: Science: 433 
UL: Physics (applied physics or maths & physics): 404 
Maynooth University: Science: 422